NBD: Drake Custom Bass

nmiller

Drowning in lap steels
Messages
7,176
When I switched from guitar to bass last year to start up a new band, I realized that the bass I kept around for recording wasn't going to cut it. I investigated a number of basses over the next few months trying to find one with both the sound and the feel that I wanted, but none hit the nail on the head. The closest would probably be a Gretsch 6073 or a Guild Starfire, but before I plunked down that amount of money, I decided to see what was out there in the world of custom instruments.

My main problem was finding a builder who had experience building hollow-bodied basses. They haven't been very popular for a few decades, so the pickings were slim. I didn't want a P-Bass with routing for weight relief, but an instrument that had a semi-acoustic quality to its tone. I came across Drake Custom Basses, as Andrew Drake has a semi-standard model he calls the "Betty". After reading a number of reviews of his work on bass forums, I decided to drop him a line. Between email and phone conversations, we hammered out the details of a custom bass that would suit me perfectly; it's a mix of Drake's standard features and a few customized changes from me. The cost was in between the Gretsch and the Guild I mentioned, not chicken feed but what I consider reasonable for the end result.

Here are the major specs:
  • Sapele body with a maple top. Andrew normally routs out the sides of these bodies, but I asked him to clear out everything except a block under the bridge. This was done mainly to give it a hollow tone, but it also lightens the weight a bit. The body is beveled on the top and back, as is standard for this model. I also specified the teardrop f-holes, just because I wanted something different.
  • Quarter-sawn maple neck with a bolt-on joint. I like bolt-on necks because they allow for easy repairs and adjustments.
  • Macassar ebony fretboard. I like the feel of ebony but the look of the Macassar.
  • 31" scale with a chunky neck profile. I took this from my Guild JS-II because of its easy playability. The nut is 1.5".
  • Hipshot tuners and D style bridge, on recommendation of the builder.
  • TV Jones Thunderblade pickups. I wanted low to medium-output passive pickups with good clarity but not too much brightness. I went with the top-mounted look just for cosmetic reasons; you rarely see top-mounted pickups anymore.
  • One volume control, one pickup blend control, and one tone control. Simple, but with a lot of flexibility.
The resulting instrument is a breeze to play and sounds exactly like I hoped it would. There's a hint of the hollowbody "thump", but it's not boomy; the treble is very clear and there's a bit of a mid-range hump so the low notes can be heard, not just felt. There's excellent tonal balance across the strings, something none of my other basses seems to achieve. The quality of construction is top-notch, as is the finish and the fret work. The bass weighs about 9.4 lbs and is very well-balanced. I decided to get a custom Ameritage case since the builder got a pretty good price from them.

I've had several custom instruments built, and this was definitely the best experience I've had with a builder. Andrew sent periodic, detailed updates by email with lots of pictures, and he posts pictures of his works in progress on his site as well. There were several features that were either new or unusual for a Drake bass, and Andrew kept me well appraised of developments, suggestions, and the reasons behind any delays.

The timing worked out well, too, as I'm going into the studio on Monday to record some songs with the band. I was planning on taking both a long and short scale bass with me, but now I'm thinking of just taking this one since it covers all the ground I need. It should be fun.







 

M138

100% Fenriz Approved
Messages
4,049
That thing is killer! And yeah, the top mounted pups look great. Congrats!
 

flatfinger

Member
Messages
2,145
Good God man , I'm a doctor not a man who sits in front of his puter all day drooling at nmiller's new bass !!! ( O.K. , I'm not really a doctor but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last year)

It is very savory !!! Luv Da Blue too !!!!!

 

nmiller

Drowning in lap steels
Messages
7,176
Yeah, it's a beaut - and it plays and sounds as good as it looks. Since I ordered it, I've had the chance to play one of the basses that inspired my choice of features - a 1969 Guild Starfire II; I actually like this new bass a lot more than the Starfire.

The one flaw is that the bridge sags slightly in the middle. The builder alerted me to this and shaved a little material off it to change the way the strings pushed on it, which mostly took care of the problem. He's working with Hipshot to produce a new bridge with a few differences including a thicker base plate to eliminate the sag altogether. It will be made of aluminum, which will be lighter than the current brass bridge and may lessen the sustain slightly (a good thing on a hollowbody bass). I plan to A/B the two bridges when the new one arrives and pick which one sounds the best.
 

PSR B1919+21

Member
Messages
16
Wow, wanted to order that beauty last year, but 've choosed fretless custom warwick starbass ii... Everything is ok with warwick, but... Dunno, it's boring, and it's long scale, heck it's so big, looks more like a double bass :/ So I'm starting to think about drake's bass again. Probably with frets now. Have you checked starbass? How it's comparing to the drakes version? Anyway, gz with your bass, it looks awesome!
 

nmiller

Drowning in lap steels
Messages
7,176
Wow, wanted to order that beauty last year, but 've choosed fretless custom warwick starbass ii... Everything is ok with warwick, but... Dunno, it's boring, and it's long scale, heck it's so big, looks more like a double bass :/ So I'm starting to think about drake's bass again. Probably with frets now. Have you checked starbass? How it's comparing to the drakes version? Anyway, gz with your bass, it looks awesome!
I haven't seen a Starbass in person, though I have played a few other Warwicks. I think the quality of construction is similar, though there were a few options that I wanted - the short scale, the minimized center block, the pickups - that I don't think Warwick offers. Warwick seems to favor "scooped" pickups with lots of treble that are good for slapping, but that's the opposite of the sound I was going for.
 






Trending Topics

Top